traits good manager

5 Traits of Incredible Managers

Laura T
Laura T

A manager, in many ways, is like a great coach.

In the spirit of March Madness, we can name a few—Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Tony Bennett, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith.

They teach you, motivate you, and trust you. They leave you feeling like you are a valuable member of the team.

A great manager also teaches, motivates, and trusts. Feeling inspired by the March Madness coaches who have led their teams to victory (Oral Roberts, anyone?). Looking to up your game as a manager? Check out five traits that make a good manager great. 

1. Communicators

Remember the college professor you had that wasn’t very active in class? They would show up to class, give a boring lecture, and then head out–no time for questions, no checking in on the students. The professor lacked good communication, and it can happen in the workplace too when a manager shows up to just clock some hours. 

Good managers are great communicators—they communicate early and often with their employees, do regular check-ins, plan, and are proactive about roadblocks. Managers who are star communicators will also regularly relay their appreciation to an employee and provide critical feedback that will help motivate them to deliver their best work. Communicators also listen—communication goes both ways. A good manager will give feedback and ask for input on a process that can be improved and general ways the team can run smoother. 

2. Relationship-Builders

Back to the professor analogy—perhaps you took a college class that you were very interested in. When signing up for the course, you were excited for not only its content but also to get the chance to meet the professor and learn more about their research. You were maybe even hoping to build a relationship with them. But if the professor came in, did their lecture, left with no interest in students, or acted coldly when approached and made it clear they didn’t have an interest in anything beyond the basics of the class, you may have lost your passion for the subject.

Good managers take the time to build relationships with their employees. They know when to motivate them and when to back off and let them take the wheel. Learn to lean into their strengths and weaknesses appropriately. Good managers also are empathetic, providing basic human compassion to their team. Additionally, good managers invest in learning about what makes them happy—did you notice that taking the lead on one aspect of a project interested them? Work to provide them with more opportunities to do so. If they express interest in learning a professional skill, make arrangements to make that happen. An engaged employee who trusts and feels that their manager is genuinely interested in their success is a happy one. 

3. Decision-Makers

In general, you want to strive to avoid being “wishy-washy.” Have you ever been in the car and watched the driver in front of you do 1000 different things? They can’t seem to stay in a lane, or they move into yours and then change speeds constantly. Maybe they throw on their turn signals a couple of times and break just to turn them off and decide, “Hmmm, not this light.” 

You are the driver in front of them on the road after a long day to your employees. You can be wishy-washy, or you can pick a lane and know where you are going. Good managers are prepared to make tough decisions objectively. They also leave some of the little choices up to their employees in order to not micromanage. Of course, you can do this with reservations by guiding them in the right direction and letting them know you are available if they need anything. Managers who can make decisions also will delegate and trust others for the benefit of the company.  

4. Motivators

A manager is a coach. Personally, I had swim coaches in my lifetime who yelled at me and spent most of the time pointing out everything I did wrong. For someone who loved the sport, that wasn’t very motivating. When I finally had a coach who not only cheered me on but provided constructive feedback in a way that wasn’t demeaning, I finally started to see the success that I wanted. 

As a manager, once you build relationships, one of your most significant responsibilities is to motivate your employees to help them be the best they can be. Encourage them and reassure them that you know that they have the potential to succeed. If they question their abilities, remind them of all the times you’ve seen them grow. Keep your interactions in general as positive as possible to help empower them to be the best they can. 

5. Leaders of Change

Have you ever been on a team or part of a committee where the leader (official or unofficial) shot down everyone’s ideas? Wanted to do things the way they’ve always done them? Had no interest in changing things up or listening to other committee members? Maybe took their role a little too seriously?

To be a successful manager, you have to be willing to embrace change. Often, companies may go through significant changes and expect managers to be the go-to person for their employees for questions and overall reassurance. As a leader, be the person who embraces that change and also opens the floor to others. If someone has a good idea, roll with it—even if it’s not yours. There is no place for your ego or closed-mindedness if you want your team to succeed and respect you. 

While there are more than five traits that make up a good manager, chances are you can spot all of these in any of the good managers you’ve been lucky to have. And as a manager yourself, these are crucial traits to learn and develop to run a motivated and engaged team.

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